Mining the Eagle’s Nest

Noront Resources

Noront Resources has been around for about 35 years. Prior to 2007, it was strictly an exploration company but, when the Eagle’s Nest deposit was discovered, the company announced that it would be developing the site and extracting the commodities itself.

In 2001, Noront Resources was among a few different companies that were exploring the area when a volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) ore deposit was found. The company began further exploration of the Eagle’s Nest in 2002 and continued until 2007 when, while searching for VMS mineralization, the Eagle’s Nest was found to contain magmatic massive sulphide deposits. After this discovery was made, further airborne and ground geophysical surveys were conducted which revealed that there were many more deposits all within the same area.

“Noront staked a bunch of these claims,” explains Paul Semple, Chief Operating Officer of Noront Resources. “The primary target was the Eagle’s Nest Deposit. We drilled an exploratory hole and discovered a massive nickel-sulphide copper system.”

Since 2010, Noront Resources has been employing leading technical and engineering consultants to collect information and samples in the area as well as completing a design for the mine, the mill and the support structures that will be needed to safely and efficiently extract the minerals from the ground. The company has been hard at work completing tests that will provide comprehensive information regarding the geology, metallurgy, environmental conditions, soil types, rock structure and the presence of any acid generating rock in the area.

The preliminary economic assessment and feasibility study has been completed and the environmental impact assessment is currently being prepared to be submitted for public and regulatory review. All of these reports are required before Noront can start any sort of operation in the area.

The deposit that exists under the ground at the Eagle’s Nest is a nearly vertical formation that will be well suited to practical underground mining methods employing basic blast hole stoping techniques. All tests of the granodiorite rock and the deposits have been rated as very competent which is a very good indication that the mine will be successful and safe. The entire mine has been planned, including underground storage areas. Access will be through ramps that will also provide air and exhaust.

The whole mine will be outfitted with as many automated systems as possible while using more electronic equipment and less diesel powered equipment to cut back on contaminated air. The remote location of the proposed mine makes reducing fuel usage vital to lowering costs; also, with the use of more automation, fewer workers will be needed to work the face.

The environment is top of mind for all who are involved in the mine as well as for the people and wildlife living in the area. It’s not as simple as one might think; there is no way that a company can just buy a chunk of land in Ontario, bring in an excavator and start digging. Every aspect of the environment must be studied so that the company can take specific precautions to reduce the risk to that particular area. The area must also be engineered so that it can recover to what it was as quickly as possible at the end of the mine’s life; the area will be completely restored in accordance with the mine rehabilitation code of Ontario.

To this end, since 2009, Noront has been looking into the environmental impact that a mining operation will have on the site. “We’re completing an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and an EA (Environmental Assessment) and part of that is the consultation program with the First Nations,” Paul explains.

“We’re also working on education and training programs to have people in the area ready for job opportunities when they become available. We’re doing predevelopment planning, construction planning and taking care of every other aspect that must be considered.”

Noront would like to be able to employ as many local workers as possible, which could turn into a very good opportunity for the local residents. It’s important for those workers to have enough training to be able to do the job safely. The amount of future work to be done is staggering so most employees will be able to benefit from lasting employment that will take them well into the 2030s depending on further exploration of the area.

According to Paul, “As we are going through our own economic development, we are looking for new economic development opportunities in the First Nations’ communities that would benefit them as much as us. Part of our culture is to create as many opportunities as we can; we’d rather create good business opportunities than pure employment opportunities and that’s our approach. We are looking at partnering opportunities with those communities.”

Not only will jobs and training be provided to the surrounding communities, Noront also plans to be involved within the community. For example, the company has created a scholarship program in Marten Falls and Webequie as well as fun community events for the local people. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 Noront provided Christmas presents for children under twelve years old. Noront has also brought hockey players to the communities to provide hockey workshops.

At this time, the main challenge with the project isn’t all the paperwork and research that must be done but rather the creation of the infrastructure that is needed to support an operation of this size. Getting roads and power lines into the site is a challenge because of financing and environmental concerns.

“We need to find out how to finance an infrastructure project in a remote area where you have relatively small community traffic and a large industrial user,” explains Paul. “How do industry and the public share that infrastructure?”

As part of this infrastructure, approximately 300 kilometres of road will be built through a private partnership with a local company. Paul explains, “We’re going to employ about four hundred direct employees and indirectly employ trucking companies and sub-contractors – probably another four times that number.”

Noront has about one thousand square kilometres of land in claims at this point, five square kilometres of which have already been explored. “We have significant exploration targets left and what we have defined at Eagle’s Nest is good for eleven years initially. If the deposit extends at depth, we are optimistic that we could go another nine years at that location. Then, with a little more infrastructure, we see that the other targets that we have will probably keep us in business for a long time.”

Certainly Noront Resources feels that finding the Eagle’s Nest and progressing into development is a strong opportunity and a great achievement. In the past, there have been entire cities built around such large projects, like the nickel sulphide mines in Sudbury. The possibilities for such a project could be endless. For more information on Noront Resources, please visit its website at http://www.norontresources.com; to learn more about the Eagle’s Nest project itself, visit http://www.eaglesnestmine.com.

December 11, 2017, 2:18 AM EST